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The New Normal: Learning and Collaborating in a Virtual Classroom

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The new normal in the training industry is quickly becoming connecting and collaborating virtually. In this session, we will challenge participants’ thinking about the challenges of converting traditional instructor-led training (ILT) to virtual instructor-led training (V-ILT) and engage the audience in a discussion of best practices for design and implementation of a V-ILT program.

Virtual classrooms have been around long enough that the features of the platforms are converging. That means best practices are not only technology agnostic, but some of our suggestions include the non-technological: for instance, setting the proper expectations with both the learner and their supervisor often increases the success metrics of V-ILT and addressing the paradigm shift to the ‘new normal’ in terms of training delivery.

In this presentation we use a case study to help identify familiar parts of ILT that translate well to V-ILT. We describe a typical virtual classroom delivery from both facilitator/producer and learner perspectives. Through this examination, we set the stage to discuss the key design strategies and principles that must underlie a successful V-ILT course.

In this fast paced world surrounded by changes in technology, a well-designed engaging virtual classroom session facilitates collaboration and connection among your participants. Based on the key design principles and implementation ideas discussed here, you can lead the change in your organization to embrace the new normal: learning in a virtual classroom.

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The New Normal: Learning and Collaborating in a Virtual Classroom

  1. 1. The New Normal: Learning and Collaborating in a Virtual Classroom Jennifer Vincent and Christopher King SRA Proprietary TOC Annual Institute April 28-30, 2014
  2. 2. Are you in the right place? • Ready to convert ILT to VILT? • Struggling to get started? • Trying to determine if my ILT a 1:1 ratio to VILT? SRA Proprietary
  3. 3. SRA Proprietary Case Study Very large federal agency; widely dispersed audience; Office of Resolution Management, responsible for handling EEO complaints (estimated to cost the organization $75K per complaint) Three Day Hybrid Conference for EEO Managers • 10 hours of V-ILT • 11 hours of face-to-face learning • Virtual keynote • Integrated Performance Support solution 21 Hours of V-ILT Courses • Converted all ILT to V-ILT • Revised existing V-ILT design • Integrated Informal Learning to support LOs
  4. 4. Should you convert the course at all? SRA Proprietary • Conduct upfront analysis? – Do people have to be together in person to achieve the learning objectives? – Is the learning enhanced by collaboration with other learners and/or synchronous access to subject matter experts? – Do learners benefit from the motivation and flexibility of a live instructor? – How quickly do I need to deploy this training; how often is the content updated?
  5. 5. SRA Proprietary Design Keys to Success Production Facilitation
  6. 6. SRA Proprietary Design Keys to Success Production Facilitation
  7. 7. So you’ve decided to convert to a virtual classroom. What’s next? What changes? What stays the same? SRA Proprietary
  8. 8. Key V-ILT Design Principles SRA Proprietary V-ILT Pace Documentation Chunking/ Sequencing Types of interactions Tailoring to the platform
  9. 9. SRA Proprietary Pace EVERY 3 MINUTES Question Poll the students Animate the screen Raise hands Change status Chat box response Whiteboard
  10. 10. Design Principles: Chunking/Sequencing SRA Proprietary Virtual sessions should not exceed 2 hours • Attention suffers after that • Distractions build Divide 6 hour courses into 3 sessions • Activates the concept of spacing to increase memory transfer and learning • Informational LOs can be delivered: • Informally – asynchronously – socially – whatever – pick your buzzword and re-sequence as needed to put these in between V-ILT sessions Inter-session work • Continues the learning beyond the event • Connects spaced events to keep students engaged Must set expectations up front – it’s been a long time since your adult learner had homework!
  11. 11. Design Principle: Activities/Interactions “Clicking ‘Next’ does not mean it’s interactive.” (Except that here, it does!) SRA Proprietary
  12. 12. Design Principle: Tailoring for the Platform SRA Proprietary How familiar are your students with the platform? • Reduces cognitive load & frees student to focus on content Pre- Meeting Review Sessions • Games and pre-meeting activities can help Quick Review of Interface to Start the Sessions
  13. 13. Design Principle: Documentation SRA Proprietary Facilitator guide Participant guide Job aids How to learn in a virtual classroom Classroom tip sheet
  14. 14. Instructor Guide Template Slide/Layout Reference Timing Facilitator Producer SRA Proprietary Slide 5 2-3 mins SAY: So you’ve decided this is the thing you want to do? Good – what’s next? To frame your thinking let’s do a little call and response. Thinking about your physical classroom design, what changes in the virtual classroom? Good, now again thinking about your physical classroom design, what stays the same in the virtual classroom? Excellent, now you’re starting to see the subtle differences! Let’s talk now about some design principles for the virtual classroom. Note pod exercise DO: Get ready to capture the comments from the crowd. Open two note pods, one per question. One is titled “Changes” the second is titled “Same”. Use the note pods to capture the feedback DO: Move forward to next slide when facilitator is ready. Slide 6 1 min SAY: Those design principles are: • Pace • Chunking/Sequencing • Types of interactions • Tailoring to the platform • Documentation Let’s talk about each, starting with Pace. DO: Move forward to next slide when facilitator is ready.
  15. 15. SRA Proprietary Best Practices of Design Breakout rooms • Allow adequate time • Your students may be virtual but these things still take about the same time as the physical classroom to get organized Plan interactions Use a wide variety of Tools/Activities Write out clear instructions/expe ctations for every activity Avoid PPT overload: Average 12-15 slides per hour of V-ILT session
  16. 16. SRA Proprietary Design Keys to Success Production Facilitation
  17. 17. Best Practices of Facilitation SRA Proprietary Create and maintain a collaborative environment A producer is not optional Be prepared to multitask Set ground rules Provide appropriate feedback and clear instructions Assign a leader; don't spend the limited time making them self organize
  18. 18. SRA Proprietary Design Keys to Success Production Facilitation
  19. 19. SRA Proprietary Elements to consider • What is a producer? • Why is planning important? • I am a content expert and have teaching experience. Why do I need to rehearse?
  20. 20. Best Practices of Production SRA Proprietary At least one rehearsal session with the facilitator and producer A producer is not optional Producer/Facilitator MUST eliminate their own distractions just like the students (phones, email, music, etc.) Make contingency plans Test learning environment Don’t get complacent
  21. 21. SRA Proprietary Experience • Developed 21 hours of V-ILT for use in a conference with 250 attendees • Developed 53 Courses spread across 6 learning programs • Piloted 37 courses • Developed 2 virtual learning series • Developed single and multi-session VILT courses • Developed standalone VILT courses
  22. 22. SRA Proprietary Final thoughts: • Bottom Line: This isn’t rocket science, but it’s not a mindless activity either. Be thoughtful, creative, and don’t be afraid to experiment! • You aren't alone, either: – Certificate programs • Synchronous Facilitator certificate from InSync – eLearning Guild, ASTD, etc. – See the Bibliography on the handout
  23. 23. Thank you! christopher_king@sra.com jennifer_vincent@sra.com SRA Proprietary